Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Talk is cheap. Take action for Women's History Month

It shouldn't take media coverage of Hillary Clinton's campaign for women to know that sexism is alive and kicking. This Women's History Month is certainly a time to look back on how far women have come and to discuss where we stand today, but navel gazing isn't going to help us achieve the equality we seek. Here are two opportunities for women and the men who love them to take action to help women's equality:

Sign Jasmyne Cannick's online petition to Ban Shirley Q. Liquor: http://jasmynecannick.typepad.com/jasmynecannickcom/2008/02/online-petition.html

Shirley Q. Liquor is the latest demeaning caricature of a black woman, conceived by a man as "comedy" for the masses. Liquor was created by Charles Knipp, a white man who wears black face and an afro wig when in character. Liquor is popular among gay, white men.
Knipp's best known character is Shirley Q. Liquor, "the Queen of Ignunce," who is based on his experiences with and interpretation of black southern women. Knipp performs the character -- an illiterate, welfare-collecting mother of 19 children[1] -- in blackface. Knipp speaks in a dialect of stereotypical broken English when he is performing as Shirley. Her conversations are often riddled with malapropisms, as when she suggests that her cat needs to get "sprayed", or when she goes shopping at "K-Mark" or 'Wal-Mark". The character attends Mount Holy Olive Second Baptist Zion Church of God in Christ of Resurrected Latter-Days AME CME (a reference to historically African-American churches). She also references the Macademia Jubilation Congregation and the Reese's Peanut Butter Choir. On a few skits, she refers to herself as The Reverend Doctor Shirley Q. Liquor.

Liquor's best friend is the seven-foot-tall, 400 pound Watusi Jenkins, who struggles with mental illness and needs to get "her head shocked" on a regular basis. Jenkins and Liquor are fans of Barry White as well as soap operas, which they refer to as "stories". Both are also fans of cold malt liquor and menthol cigarettes. Jenkins usually appears in "Happy Hour" skits which mimic a radio broadcast.

In addition to live performances, Knipp has produced several spoken-word CDs. Knipp's "Daily Ignunce" morning radio routine, usually 90 seconds long, is syndicated and heard on radio stations throughout the United States. Most recently, the character of Shirley Q. Liquor made an appearance in cartoon form on the pilot episode of Laugh Out, the first interactive, gay-themed comedy show. Shirley often addresses people by saying, "How you durrin'?" SOURCE
Jasmyne Cannick, a blogger and African American and gay activist, has led a battle against the Liquor character. In response, Knipp posted Photoshopped images of Cannick's face on the body of a nude, obese porn star, and Cannick's personal contact information on his Web site, resulting in racist and sexist harassment.

This month, let Knipp and his followers know that demeaning images and harassment of women will not be tolerated. Sign Cannick's petition (link above).

And, like my blog sister Prof. Tracey at Aunt Jemima's Revenge says, the issue here is not just the black face--though that is plenty bad. It is the denigrating portrait of black womanhood that we see too often on the big screen courtesy of black, male actors like Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.

Support Native American feminist Andrea Smith

I received this plea from Adele Nieves, a contemporary journalist writer who focuses on politics, women's issues and race. Nieves is compiling the book What We Think: Gender Roles, Women's Issues and Feminism in the 21st Century, An Anthology & CD.

In honor of Women's History Month, I am putting out a call to all women (and men) who support feminism, with no apology! Our sister Andrea Smith was issued a negative tenure recommendation from the University of Michigan despite her "outstanding academic and community record." Increasingly, real and effective diversity in our schools is being undercut and undermined, politically and financially.

Here is an opportunity for us to support someone who has not only proven herself above and beyond in both academics and in her contributions to the larger community, but whose work is invaluable to those seeking to create a better world.

Take action. Raise your voice!

Native Feminism Without Apology!

Statement of University of Michigan Students and Faculty
in Support of Andrea Smith's Tenure Case

On February 22nd, 2008, University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA) issued a negative tenure recommendation for Assistant Professor Andrea Lee Smith. Jointly appointed in the Program in American Culture and the Department of Women's Studies, Dr. Smith's body of scholarship exemplifies scholarly excellence with widely circulated articles in peer-reviewed journals and numerous books in both university and independent presses including Native Americans and the Christian Right published this year by Duke University Press. Dr. Smith is one of the greatest indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time. A nominee for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Smith has an outstanding academic and community record of service that is internationally and nationally recognized. She is a dedicated professor and mentor and she is an integral member of the University of Michigan (UM) intellectual community. Her reputation and pedagogical practices draw undergraduate and graduate students from all over campus and the nation.

Dr. Smith received the news about her tenure case while participating in the United States' hearings before the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Ironically, during those very same hearings, the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that restricted affirmative action policies at UM specifically were cited as violations of international law. At the same time, there is an undeniable link between the Department of Women's Studies and LSA's current tenure recommendations and the long history of institutional restrictions against faculty of color. In 2008, students of color are coming together to protest the way UM's administration has fostered an environment wherein faculty of color are few and far between, Ethnic Studies course offerings have little financial and institutional support, and student services for students of color are decreasing each year.

To Support Professor Andrea Smith: The Provost must hear our responses! Write letters in support of Andrea Smith's tenure case.
Address email letters to ALL of the following: Teresa Sullivan, Provost and Executive VP for Academic Affairs, LSA, tsull@umich.edu Lester Monts, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, LSA, lmonts@umich.edu Mary Sue Coleman, President, PresOff@umich.edu TenureForAndreaSmith@gmail.comVoice your ideas on the web forum at http://www.woclockdown.org/

To Support Women of Color at Michigan and the Crisis of Women's Studies and Ethnic Studies: Attend the student organized March 15th Conference at UM!!!! Campus Lockdown: Women of Color Negotiating the Academic Industrial Complex is free and open to the public. Speakers include renowned activists and scholars Piya Chatterjee, Angela Davis, Rosa Linda Fregoso, Ruthie Gilmore, Fred Moten, Clarissa Rojas, and Haunani-Kay Trask. For more information and to register, visit: http://www.woclockdown.org/.

Women's History Month blog carnival

New post up at Women's Space:
The gulf of privilege is a huge issue for those of us who work on racism and sexism issues. I work with homeless adults, so my nose is rubbed in my privilege relative to my clients on nearly a daily basis. Following is a simple list of the privileges I have as a white, middle class, college educated, heterosexual, able-bodied woman relative to my clients. There are lots of intersectionalities here. In some cases, my clients (especially my male clients) have privilege relative to me. But in nearly every case, there are privileges I have through my skin color, social class, sexual orientation,
able-bodiedness, or education level that they don't. I'm not going to break them down by "category" of privilege while listing them. I'll let you all do it.

--excerpt from a post by Maureen O'Danu
We have room for more submissions! If you missed the deadline or are inspired by the words of another contributor, send your essay, poem, artwork, video, etc. to cheryllindseyseelhoff@gmail.com or whattamisaid@gmail.com. Guidelines for submissions are here.


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